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Friday, July 7, 2017

Meet the Danes #4 (part 2 of 2)

Day 2 of "Meet the Danes #4". See all installments of the ongoing series here.

Morten Pedersen 5tet: Sammensurium (Barefoot Records, 2017) ****

Pianist Morten Pedersen new 5tet represents a Nordic-European idea of free jazz and improvised music. The 5tet features Copenhagen-based Polish trumpeter Tomasz Dąbrowski, Italian reeds player Francesco Bigoni, Swedish, Malmö-based double bass player Johannes Nästesjö and drummer Håkon Berre (who plays with Pedersen in the trio The Mighty Mouse).

Pedersen wrote for the Sammensurium's ('conglomeration' in Danish) complex compositions. Their entangled architecture incorporates strong melodic motifs but never surrender to clear structures or fixed pulses, and always demand individual, intuitive improvisations. Parallel, sometimes dissonant and conflictual lines and ideas, construct the ballad “Jubas”, the more abstract “Aja” and the Monk-ish, chamber-like “Kitchen”, suggesting fragile and ethereal architecture. Pedersen delivers his own commanding concept of free playing with his solo piano on “Odacinummocni”, triggering imaginative solos of Dąbrowski and Bigoni. The last piece, the playful “Itzi” is the only piece that is rooted in the American free jazz of the late sixties.

The Firebirds - Aladdin's Dream: The Firebirds play Carl Nielsen (Ilk Music, 2017) ****

The Firebirds trio - reeds player Anders Banke, keyboards player Anders Filipsen and drummer Stefan Pasborg, all are active in many other groups as Ibrahim Electric, Travelling Tribes and New Jungle Orchestra - interpret the works of iconic composers. On its self-titled, debut album (Ilk Music, 2015) the trio created brilliant interpretations of Igor Stravinsky compositions, whose infamous ballet inspired the trio name. Aladdin’s Dream is a tribute to Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931), known to many Danish as his face appeared on the local one-hundred kroner note. Nielsen was considered as an outsider during his lifetime and his works gained local and international recognition only from the sixties through conductors as Leonard Bernstein. Apparently, Nielsen was suspicious about the relevance of jazz to the Danish culture and asserted that it has “no roots” in Denmark.
The Firebirds challenges Nielsen assertion with great imagination, passion and a healthy sense of humor. The five-part “Alladin Suite” references Oriental and Indian cycles and is interpreted with complex and clever rhythmic shifts, alternating organically between atmospheric funky to blues shuffle, and colored with a refined sense of drama. “Helios Overture”, one of the most famous orchestral works of Nielsen, inspired by his stay in Athens, Greece, sound as if it was written for a group that can encompass prog-like, orchestral sensibilities with a free jazz intense rhythmic attack. The last, most beautiful “Little Suite for Strings”, one of Nielsen earliest works, ends with a majestic, exciting dance, a triumphant conclusion to this impressive tribute.

Ellipsis - Bulawayo (Creative Sources, 2017) ****

The Ellipsis trio - Australian pianist Andy Butler and double bass player Jon Heilbron and Danish drummer Christian Windfeld - was formed in 2013 while the three musicians resided in Berlin. Bulawayo is Ellipsis third album, after two self-produced, only-digital albums. It was recorded in Aarhus in autumn 2015.

Ellipsis music is free-improvised but has a distinct reserved-melancholic aesthetics of a chamber trio. The trio has developed its own syntax - the pieces unfold slowly, resonate gently in space despite their fragile, fractured structures. At first Butler, Heilbron and Windfeld sound as operating in parallel sonic universes that occasionally unite and solidify a melodic motif but immediately afterwards opt to investigate their own sonic universes. But in repeated listening you understand how deep is their interaction. Butler offers the core ideas while both Heilbron and Windfeld contrast his melodic motifs with dissonant, abstract colors and shades, transforming fragile improvisations as “(Another) Von Trier Dream” to dreamy-kaleidoscopic textures.

Marcela Lucatelli / Erik Kimestad Pedersen / Henrik Olsson (Self Produced, 2017) ***½

Copenhagen-based Swedish guitarist Henrik Olsson and Norwegian trumpeter Erik Kimestad Pedersen have worked as a duo for years, keeping up an anti-routine by inviting other musician that may enhance their language beyond its established idioms. This limited-edition orange colored 10’’ vinyl documents the duo first ever meeting with Brazilian vocalist Marcela Lucatelli on February 2017. Lucatelli studied music in Copenhagen and now based in Denmark and Italy.

The four free-improvised pieces focus on intense and brutal sonic collisions that demand all three musicians to exploit all their inventive powers and extended techniques. Lucatelli, Pedersen and Olsson mutate their voices, breathes and the guitar strings into extreme, chaotic soundscapes that still has some twisted sensual quality. Like noisy godzillas that enjoy the Danish hygge in a compact, sweaty space.

Henrik Pultz Melbye - Frogs // Toads (Insula Jazz, 2017) ***

Sax player Henrik Pultz Melbye always opted for the emore xperimental sonic terrains, whether he was working with his own trio, his duo Motherfucker (with drummer Thomas Eiler) or the avant-rock group SVIN. Frogs // Toads is Melbye solo project, featuring him free-improvising with the tenor sax in various rooms with different sizes and acoustics. Melbye sees this recording as part of “an ongoing personal exploration of non-idiomatic saxophone sounds and techniques and how you can use them to make music”.

The concise improvisations are highly intense, disciplined and cerebral, reflecting Melbye restless, searching spirit. All together these improvisations solidify Melbye complex and rich language and his commanding usage of extended breathing techniques, including circular breathing, creating feedback effects and drone soundscapes.

Tigers Mind - Paradiso Pudding Mix (Jvtlandt, 2017) ***

Tigers Mind trio's - Norwegian sax player Danielle Dahl, electronics player-guitarist Oslo-based Niklas Adam and drummer Thomas Eiler (from SVIN) - debut album (after a self-released EP) juggles with a kaleidoscopic mashup of electronic minimalism, punk rock, noise and free jazz. The trio began working in 2010, playing improvised music that moves in primitive, ritualistic waves between static object, sparse melodic progression and sudden, primal sonic assaults.

The opening “Magma Holtz” is actually a chilly, minimalist electronic soundscapes with subtle bursts of outworldly noises, the only pieces that do not surrender to Tigers Mind brutal assaults. Dahl leads “Uncertainty Matrix” with a tortured, high-pitched cacaphonic interplay, interrupted by Adam’s atmospheric noises and distorted guitar sounds and the massive, pulse-free drumming of Eiler. The 15-minutes “Mid Haste” brings the trio unpredictable roller coaster interplay to perfection. The split overtones of Dahl clash with the metallic hammering of Eiler and are distracted by the nervous attacks of Adam. Then all three musicians realign to other fierce assaults, some more impressionist and industrial, others more dense and wild, all are highly intense.

Blind Man’s Band (Insula Jazz, 2017) ***

The trio Blind Man’s Band - keyboards player Christian Rønn, bass player Claus Poulsen with French drummer Kevin Angboly - comes from the bubbling experimental-underground scene of Copenhagen. This improvising trio is influenced by the punkish spirit of Dutch group The Ex and Japanese drummer Tatsuya Yoshida's prog-rock outfits. Blind Man’s Band self-titled debut cassette was recorded in Copenhagen on June 2016. The seven short pieces offer colorful, extreme sonic clashes. The three fearless musicians sound as enjoying chaotic interplay that is always on the verge of a noisy meltdown, skyrocketing as fast as possible, head-on to the most intense, psychedelic mode possible.

Check them out on Soundcloud: